In general, food courts are a place that you stop at when you are in a mall. There, you'll usually get overpriced, low quality chain food. Savvy foodies, however, have known for years there is an exception to that rule. That exception is Mitsuwa Marketplace, where choices range from the top-rated Santouka Ramen to tempura specialists, takoyaki vendors and more. One thing in common in Mitsuwa is that the food is authentic and high quality, as evidenced by the fact that there are often long lines of Japanese clientele waiting as well as others who know where to get good Japanese food at a reasonable price.
Misasa is a rice and noodle house located in the Mitsuwa Marketplace on Culver Avenue at the 5 freeway in Irvine. The menu consists of rice bowls, bento combinations along with udon and soba noodle soups. Lunch plates and several combo plates round out the menu. There is usually a display at the front counter also with a daily special. Pricing is extremely reasonable, with only the combos, a few of the rice bowls, a tempura lunch plate and a bento combination with rice, miso soup, tempura, sashimi and simmered vegetables exceeding $8.00.
As is with any of the food court restaurants in any of the Mitsuwa Marketplaces, it's easy to order your meal. Right next to the order window is a glass cabinet with practically the entire menu, created out of plastic to give you not only prices but a visual representation of what the dish looks like. You just place your order, grab a seat and wait for your number to be called. When your meal is ready, they will call over a speaker system that covers the entire food court so if you are sitting with a group that has ordered from several of the places in the food court, you can still hear your order being called out. Walk back to the counter, pick up your tray and you are ready to eat.
The Kakiage Udon is a big bowl filled with toothsome udon noodles, a slice of fishcake and a delicious dashi broth. Garnished with scallions and some tempura crisps, it is a substantial meal in itself. The broth is well done, with the delicate taste that dashi is known for. The noodles themselves are cooked to a perfect al dente, having just enough of a bite to let you know you are eating a good udon noodle. On the side, the Kakiage looks like a deep-fried tempura fritter. Mixed inside the batter are pieces of onion, vegetables and shrimp. The Kakiage is a tasty accompaniment to the soup, meant to be pulled apart and eaten as an accompaniment to the soup.
All of the soups and cold noodle dishes are available with a choice of soba or udon noodles. The udon noodles are thick, made from a white wheat flour. Like most pasta, the udon noodles have very little flavor themselves, but pick up flavors from the soups or sauces that they are served in. The soba noodles are quite different, made from buckwheat flour, very thin and with a nutty flavor. These are a great noodle to stand up to assertive flavors and is also an excellent choice for several cold Japanese noodle dishes.
A good way to try the soba noodles is in the Curry Soup. This bowl showcases several flavors and textures and highlights the Japanese curry, quite a different sauce from the Southeast Asian and Indian curries. Fresh beansprouts line the bottom of the bowl, with a heaping pile of soba noodles on top. Next, the broth is ladled in to make the soup. After that, A thick layer of Japanese curry tops the bowl, garnished with lettuce squares and fishcake slices. Finally, four large chunks of fried chicken are placed on top and napped with some more curry and a scallion garnish.
Every bite of the curry soup is different, the curry slowly mixing with the soup broth to flavor the soup, the crispy chicken and the noodles both adding flavor and texture. The curry is very addicting, not hot spicy but instead spicy with several different aromatic spices, creamy and a nice complement to the chicken. This is much more than a soup, but a meal with many flavors and elements to it. Fans of other curries will find it a nice contrast of what they are used to and it is an excellent way for a diner to try curry if they have not had it, or avoided it because of too much “heat” in other curries.
Misasa is located in Mitsuwa Marketplace's food court. They also have another location in the Mitsuwa Marketplace in the West L.A./Santa Monica area. Misasa makes a great choice for a casual meal and a great way to enjoy delicious Japanese foods without the price associated with fancier restaurants. With its location right off the Santa Ana freeway, it also makes a great choice for a quick bite when you are on the way to someplace and want something more than a fast food burger or taco. Misasa has a nice menu and you could go there quite often without getting the same item twice. For the person who enjoys Japanese food, that could be a fun challenge!
14230 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92604